Clinton v. Comey is not yet a SCOTUS case, but who knows what the future holds?
Regardless of the outcome of the election on Tuesday, it’s not difficult to imagine legal proceedings being filed
FBI investigators looking into allegations that disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner had sent sexual images to a teenage girl recently wanted to expand the scope of their search of a laptop computer. FBI Director James Comey approved their request.
The agents had been investigating whether or not Weiner had child pornography on the family laptop. Investigators subsequently discovered metadata indicating that emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server were on a laptop computer shared by Weiner and his now-estranged Huma Abedin, who remains one of Clinton’s closest confidants. Agents contacted the Director, indicating that their discovery might contain information relevant to the probe into the home-brew private email server used by Clinton while she served as Secretary of State.
Comey not only approved the expanded scope of the investigation, but he decided to go public. In a letter to relevant House and Senate Committees, Comey said, “In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the [email server] investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps....”
As expected, a largely partisan reaction
Depending on which side of the aisle you’re on, your reaction to the news is either apoplectic rage or gleeful delight — like everything else in this election cycle, scant few populate an indifferent middle ground on this one.
Democratic Senator Harry Reid accused Comey of violating the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the result of an election.
“In tarring Secretary Clinton with thin innuendo, you overruled longstanding tradition and the explicit guidance of your own Department,” said Reid in a letter to Comey.
Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy has been at the forefront of the Congressional effort to investigate Clinton’s use of a private email server.
In a statement, Gowdy said, “My objective remains as it has always been: a full, complete, independent investigation consistent with the history and reputation of the FBI and worthy of public respect and confidence.”
Understandably, the voting electorate has pretty much fallen into lockstep on party lines.
Interestingly, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (who served during the presidency of George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007) and Eric Holder (who was Attorney General under President Obama prior to Loretta Lynch’s current tenure in the post) both criticized Comey’s recent actions.
What’s happened between July and October?
In a 15-minute announcement held in early July, Comey raised questions about Clinton’s judgment and said that she had been “extremely careless” in her use of the private email server. He pointed out that there were indeed classified materials among those private emails, despite Clinton’s claim to the contrary. He even stated that her actions might merit disciplinary action, if she was still employed by the government. He all but declared that Clinton was guilty of wrongdoing and she had then thereafter lied about it.
He stopped short, however, of recommending criminal prosecution.
“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said.
Comey’s decision to recommend against criminal proceedings was met with a chorus of criticism.
Gowdy grilled the director in hearings held later in the summer. Conservative politicians called the move political cowardice.
And it has been widely reported that FBI investigators involved in the probe were outraged that no grand jury was convened, and that in essence, the case was closed. Investigators reportedly believed that the widespread allowance of immunity and the practice of agreeing to “ground rules” during interviews were gross errors in judgement that lead to a weaker case being built.
Retired FBI agent Michael M. Biasello famously said, “Comey has singlehandedly ruined the reputation of the organization.”
Putting down a mutiny of disgruntled agents
On the Lars Larson show on Friday afternoon, Rudy Giuliani — a well-connected one-time presidential hopeful and former New York City mayor — suggested that Comey is “feeling the pressure” from forces inside the FBI.
“The other rumor that I get is that there’s a kind of revolution going on inside the FBI about the original conclusion being completely unjustified and almost a slap in the face to the FBI’s integrity,” Giuliani said. “I know that from former agents. I know that even from a few active agents.”
Giuliani said, “I think he’s feeling the pressure of a group of FBI agents who don’t look at it politically — just as everybody’s got to be treated the same. If everybody was treated the same, she’d be under indictment now for false statements to the FBI, for destruction of evidence, for obstruction of justice.”
In an article for the Daily Mail, New York Times bestselling author Ed Klein — who has just published his fourth book about the Clintons since 2005, Guilty as Sin — speculated that “James Comey’s decision to revive the investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server and her handling of classified material came after he could no longer resist mounting pressure by mutinous agents in the FBI, including some of his top deputies, according to a source close to the embattled FBI director.”
There have even been reports that there is a stack of unsinged resignation letters has been steadily growing on Comey’s desk.
So, when FBI investigators came to Comey with evidence that there potentially could be Clinton emails on the laptop shared by her top aide and a man being investigated for illicit communications with an underage girl, Comey pretty much had to approve the request. And given his prior testimony to Congress, he pretty much had to notify Congress of the change in the status of the investigation.
Even if his decision to notify Congress about the new inquiry was not motivated by a hope to rebuild his standing (and all-around morale) among FBI employees, Comey was for all practical purposes forced to go public with the news.
Had he not sent the letter announcing that the investigation was reopened and that fact was discovered after the election, he’d be accused of protecting Clinton and her run for the presidency. That would be a storm even he would not be able to weather.
So, two days after Comey notified Congress that the investigation into the private email would be reopened, the FBI obtained the warrant it needed to allow agents to look for evidence of private emails from the unsecured server as well as emails from the State Department.
That examination will take many weeks — and probably months — because thoroughly vetting more than 650,000 emails is no small feat. This means that if Clinton is elected, she will be sworn in as president while under federal investigation. Regardless of your party affiliation, if you love America, this should cause you both headache and heartache.
Regardless of the outcome of the election on Tuesday, it’s not difficult to imagine legal proceedings being filed — either Comey files criminal charges against Clinton, or Clinton files civil charges against Comey.
We shall see what we shall see.
Watching history unfold before our eyes
The fact that another device on which Clinton emails has become available for examination is significant. Recall that Clinton staffers scrubbed the home-brew server with a technology called BleachBit, ensuring that no investigator would ever know in totality what had once been recorded there. Other staffers destroyed handheld devices with a hammer.
At the very minimum, those actions look like the work of people who wish to keep something hidden from view. At worst, well...
The fact that the device in question belongs to the now fractured family of Abedin and Weiner is equally significant. In espionage, it is common to use the acronym MICE when discussing a person’s motivation for betraying their country. MICE stands for Money, Ideology, Compromise, and Ego.
Through his now-separated wife, Weiner is just one degree of separation from Hillary Clinton — who is potentially going to be the 45th President of the United States — and has already been compromised by his ongoing sex scandals. He could easily be further compromised with a “honey trap” in the form a teenage girl from Russia, China, North Korea, or elsewhere.
Think on that for a moment.
Whether or not there are classified materials on this newly discovered laptop, many questions remain. What did John Podesta know (and when)? What did Cheryl Mills know (and when)? What will be the investigations into their involvement in the current controversy?
Perhaps most importantly, will a president-elect Hillary Clinton keep Huma Abedin as her primary aid?
In the aftermath of Friday’s revelations, Hillary Clinton has gone from calling Abedin one of her closest advisors to “a staff member.”
The problem is, when one hears the words “staff member,” a significant number of voters paying attention to this current controversy will think not of Abedin, but of Weiner.
It bears repeating that the news from Friday indicates that if Clinton wins on November 8th, we will have a president-elect who will place her hand on the Holy Bible and take the oath of office while under federal investigation.
How the Department of Justice responds to that fact will have a great influence on the efficacy of the government for the next four years.
Should Donald Trump win, he will place his hand on that same Holy Book and hear chants from the assembled audience to “lock her up.”
How Trump reacts to that pressure will forecast the next four years of the Executive Branch.
Regardless of what happens on November 8th, it is safe to predict that historians a century from now will marvel at our current events.
But we who live through them simply hope to live through them.
Then again, that’s kind of how history works.